Three Junior-Fours on the East Side. Which Did They Choose?

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A couple with ‘many requirements’ for their first home purchase puts their budget to the test in Manhattan.

The New York Times - Real Estate

Leslie Gold and Josh Penney spent the first three years of their married life in a one-bedroom rental in Murray Hill. When the rent rose to a little over $3,000 a month last year, despite the “flexibility” of a rental, they knew it would be wiser to buy.

Ms. Gold had moved into the apartment six years ago, in large part because it was convenient to her job, a bus ride away. But when a new job took her to Rockefeller Center, the location became less convenient, requiring a bus to a train. The commute was especially tough because Ms. Gold, a lawyer, walks with crutches, the result of cerebral palsy.

In their search for a new home, she and Mr. Penney, 45, a content manager at an academic press, made the need for a better commute for Ms. Gold — a short walk to the subway — their top priority.

“I thought, New York real estate is sort of like mythological,” said Ms. Gold, 37, “and even though I had spent my career saving money, I thought anything was out of my price range.”

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Scouring Streeteasy, the couple learned that with their budget of up to $800,000, they could afford to buy a junior four — a one-bedroom with a dining room or other extra space — in a postwar co-op on the East Side. If Ms. Gold became pregnant, they’d have a room for the baby. They wanted a dog-friendly building with plenty of closets or storage.

For months, their Sundays revolved around open houses. They saw so many that they started coming up with nicknames. “We needed a way to remember them and get excited about them,” said Mr. Penney.

“Heaven’s junior four” was shiny and white. “Darth Vader kitchen” was shiny and black. “Airport lobby” was for a building so vast “it looked like there should be a people-mover,” Ms. Gold said.

The couple had trouble gauging apartment sizes from online information. When it comes to square footage, “everyone is using a different ruler,” Mr. Penney said. But, he figured, “You won’t know what a good deal is unless you’ve seen a bunch of bad deals."

Many buildings weren’t easily accessible for Ms. Gold. Stairs at the entrance could be a problem, as would the lack of a handrail. In one building, with tiers of steps at the front, they learned the staffers were happy to carry people and things. Still, they worried not only about a future stroller but a wheelchair.

“You can’t carry an electric wheelchair up the stairs,” Mr. Penney said.

Among their choices:

This junior four had a tiny second bedroom carved out of the rectangular living room. There was a private outdoor terrace, and storage was available in the basement. The location was less than a block from the 86th Street station on the recently extended Q line.

Across the street was an empty lot, once a Gristede’s supermarket, with pending construction.

The price had dropped from $795,000 to $700,000. Monthly maintenance was $1,500.

At this junior four, where the listing used the same staged photos as an older listing, there was a traditional L-shaped living and dining area with plenty of built-in cabinets. The building had a roof deck and the unit was in great condition, but the sunless windows faced an alley with trash cans.

The location was almost equidistant from the 86th and 72nd Street stations on the Q line.

The price was $825,000, with maintenance of $775.

This L-shaped junior four in the Leslie House building needed no nickname. The bedroom was large, but the kitchen begged for a revamp.

The building, which had a storage room and a roof deck, was around the corner from the Lexington Avenue-53rd Street station.

The price had dropped from $799,000 to $725,000. Maintenance was just over $1,600.

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